Mint Tea Tours’ private 6-day tour Fes to the North is the best itinerary to visit Morocco from Europe, as Fes is often an inexpensive and short flight from many European capitals! Your private English-speaking driver will help you explore hidden gems of Morocco’s northern region, such as charming Assilah with its street art murals and Chefchaouen’s blue medina.
Today our meeting point to start your private 6-day tour of Morocco is from Fes, the cultural and educational capital of Morocco. Then, we drive towards the official and administrative capital of the Moroccan kingdom of Morocco, Rabat.
Upon arrival to Rabat, start your visit by exploring the iconic site of the city, Udayas Kasbah. The Udayas Kasbah is a small, beautiful historical kasbah with blue-painted walls. It is located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River, opposite the city of Salé. The Udayas Kasbah is often described as a haven of tranquility, with all its magnificent flower-filled little streets, Andalusian garden, and Moorish cafés. It is indeed one of the most unique and best known sites of Rabat. More interesting, UNESCO recognized the significance of the Udayas Kasbah and it was approved as the most recent add to World Heritage sites in Morocco.
Make sure to fully discover the beautiful site and enjoy the view after a stroll through the Andalusian gardens in the old palace grounds, and then we will explore another site, the “medina” or “old town” of Rabat.
Like most other Moroccan cities, Rabat has an old, maze-like medina. This small medina was all there was of Rabat before the French came in 1912 and consequently expanded the city, creating new neighborhoods. Within the medina of Rabat there are lots of traditional shops and craft places that you can visit and explore. Rabat’s medina is a pleasure to walk around in, as it is regarded as having a more relaxed and easy-going ambiance, compared to other major medinas of Morocco. Among the different souks in the medina is found the wool market square, where Christian prisoners were once sold as slaves in medieval times.
Later, visit the ambitious but unfinished mosque of Hassan Tower. Hassan Tower was initially started in 1195 by Yacoub el-Mansour, known for his title “The Victorious”, around the same time he oversaw the construction of the Udayas Kasbah.
The mosque was supposed to have been the greatest in Morocco and the second largest mosque in the world, but its construction was never finished. Actually, the construction was abandoned in 1199, after el-Mansour’s death, and never resumed.
In spite of that, the mosque’s prayer hall was in use until a great earthquake occurred in 1755 and brought down the supporting columns, some of which have been restored to give an idea of its potential size. All in all, Hassan Tower remains one of the most beautiful pieces of Almohad architecture in all Morocco, even if not fully completed.
Next door to Hassan Tower, visit the beautiful mausoleum of Mohammed V. Just across these unfinished ruins of Hassan Tower stands the striking mausoleum of Mohammed V. It was built in the 1950s and inaugurated in 1961, six years after the death of Mohammed V. The structure is considered today a masterpiece of modern Alaouite Dynasty architecture. The mausoleum is characterized by its plain exterior of white walls and typical green-tiled roof which contrasts deeply with the elaborately ornamental interior. However, the main features of the mausoleum are, of course, the glorious tombs of King Mohammed V (the grandfather of Morocco’s current king) and his two sons.
Finally, finish your exploration of Rabat from the ancient Roman-Moroccan ruin of Chellah. It is at the site of Roman city originally known as Sala Colonia. Later, hundreds of years after the Romans fled Morocco, the Almohad Dynasty used the now abandoned city as a necropolis, dubbed Chellah. They were followed by the Merenids, who built a mosque, zaouia (shrine) and royal tombs. Presently, Chellah has been transformed into a popular tourist destination for the expansive gardens. In the spring, hundreds of flowers are in bloom, and couples stroll at their leisure, along with the occasional bird watcher gazing up at the storks. The grounds are yours to explore, from the citadel to the ruins.
Day two on our tour takes us further north towards the city of art, Assilah.
Assilah is a fortified seaside town on the northwest of Morocco. It is a bright and fresh little destination that provides a taste of Spain mixed with Moroccan traditions. The city is small enough to be explored by foot in just half a day.
Start your day there by admiring the murals that fill the white washed walls of the old part of town which are by far one of the town’s main attractions and which attract art lovers all year round. Interestingly enough, locals change the street art every year, and visitors can wander around for hours admiring each piece of work, some smaller and more intricate, others murals filling whole walls. Assilah offers the most fantastic backdrops for photographs.
Later visit Assilah’s famous ramparts. Many of the ramparts were built in the 15th century when Assilah was under the control of the. From then on, these city walls have been cared for and even renovated in part, and stand today in marvelous condition, framing the old part of Assilah and giving such character and history to this already charming town.
Assilah also has its own small and charming beach, but for an alternative to the busier beach directly off the ancient medina. The beach offers the visitors soft sand and a tranquil ambiance. In fact, sunset from the beach should not be missed.
Today we start our day by a short drive towards Tangier, the largest city in northern Morocco. About 30 minutes’ drive outside of Assilah leads us to the cave of Hercules, the site that makes Tangier proud. The cave has two openings, one to sea and one to land. The sea opening is known as the map of Africa, because it resembles the African continent in shape. The cave was long thought to be bottomless. It was believed that the cave is one end of a subterranean tunnel over 24 kilometers long which passes under the Strait of Gibraltar.
Another few minutes’ drive away from the cave of Hercules and across the beautiful sea, along the golden beaches, brings us to Cape Spartel. At this particular point the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. The view from there is spectacular, where one can see Europe on the other side. Enjoy the beautiful view and then we resume our drive to Tangier.
Tangier is a perfect example of cultural diversity in Morocco, because the city has endured the rule of many empires throughout history, and therefore, it has inherited different cultural and traditional heritage. In preset days, Tangier still reflects the European influence. More precisely, the Spanish influence mixed with Arab traditions. This is true not only because Tangier was under the Spanish protection, but also because it is located less than 5 kilometers away from Spain. For that reason, Tangier has always been a strategic gateway between Africa and Europe since Phoenicians time.
Tangier’s top attraction is remarkably its medina. The medina is contained by 15th-century walls that circle the old town since the time of the Portuguese, making the medina of Tangier continuously vibrant with life from within. The streets and alleys inside the medina are not limited to only commercial shops, but also for residents who prefer the old medina and the old fashion life-style over a modern one. The medina contains local souks of different types where local life thrives in a perfect harmony with touristic atmosphere. Within the medina there is a hidden kasbah. The kasbah is often described as a maze, a charming maze of blue and white buildings with beautiful doors with hobnails and trident hardware to ward off evil. It has also a wonderful market place with all kinds of offerings from dried nuts and fruits to butchered ram heads ready to cook.
Today we start by a one-hour drive from Tangier towards Tetouan, the city that sits at the foot of the spectacular Rif Mountains, in a valley of orange groves and almond orchards.
Tetouan’s history began in the late 13th century, when it was founded by members of the Merenid dynasty. In the 15th century, it became a refuge for Andalusian refugees, who left their mark on the city’s architecture, art and cuisine; and in 1913 it was chosen as the capital of the Spanish protectorate of Morocco. Today it is Morocco’s most important Mediterranean port, offering a fascinating blend of Arab and Spanish culture.
The medina is Tetouan’s historic heart, protected by five kilometers of rampart walls and seven magnificent doors. In around 1400, the city was destroyed by the Spanish and later re-built by the Islamic Moors who fled there after the 15th-century Spanish Inquisition. The Moorish architectural influence can be seen in the white Andalusian houses, most of which have been left untouched since the 17th century. Artisans ply ancient trades in dedicated souks, while mosques, kasbahs and the Royal Palace on Hassan II square evoke the grandeur of a past era. It is for this sense of authenticity that the medina was declared as UNESCO world heritage site in 1997.
Later in afternoon after we explore the charm of the medina of Tetouan, we will continue our drive towards Chefchaouen, the “blue pearl” of Morocco.
Chefchaouen is a small city located in the heart of the Rif Mountains. It is often considered a village by tourist for its small size, which makes it an easy place to discover. However, despite its small size, Chefchaouen is rich with sightseeing and beautiful landscapes, which makes the small town, the real gem of Morocco. Interestingly enough, Chefchaouen is well known among locals for its calm and clean air and fresh, natural water, because the city contains no factories. On the other hand, Chefchaouen is famous amongst tourist for its fifty shades of blue.
The “blue heaven” or the “blue pearl” are nicknames this little town acquired for being thoroughly painted in blue. There are many theories why Chefchaouen is blue; some theories tell stories about the advent of Jews in the 15th century who had blue as a divine color, and hence being closer to God. Other theories claim that blue keeps mosquitoes away. However, the only way to uncover this interesting mystery is via interacting with the friendly locals and learn from them the real reason.
The overall medina of Chefchaouen is beautiful and charming that every single street you pass is more beautiful and more breathtaking than the previous. Walking through all those blue-washed Andalusian alleyways, noticing local crafts hung in every store’s typical door, and being greeted by the friendly merchants and little kids of the city, brings joy to soul and makes one feel really alive. Enjoy your evening strolling around and discovering the area around the main square called “Outa El Hammam”, which is the heart of the city, and its surrounding neat and well-decorated markets.
Your day in Chefchaouen should be a “chill” day. Indeed, Chefchaouen has plenty of stunning places to explore, but its small size makes it easy to do and in no rush. Start by reaching for the main square, “Place Outa Al Hammam”, through the beautiful Andalusian blue alleys where you will most likely be inspired to take dozens of photos. In the middle of Outa Al Hammam stands the main entrance to the reddish kasbah with its magnificent garden, museum, prison and towers. Later, visit Ras El Maa River, the main source of water in the city which supplies the entire city with fresh, natural and drinkable water. Have a walk down by the cool river, and along the way, discover water-mills on which locals relied to grind their wheat, which used to be their number one activity for living. At the bottom of the river is the Portuguese bridge built by Portuguese prisoners who tried to invade the city. Finally, visitors of Chefchaouen should not miss watching the sunset from near the Spanish mosque up on Bouzafar Hill. The spectacle is, to say the least, breathtaking. Make sure you watch the whole process of the sun peacefully sinking beyond the mountains in front of you, while listening to the melodic adhan (call to prayer) coming up from all the mosques together for a moment of spirituality and peace.
Today is rather eventful, because we will discover two of the main touristic destinations in Morocco, Volubilis and Meknes. The drive from Chefchaouen to Volubilis is approximately 3 hours, so it will be a good idea to start early. Make sure to keep your eyes open if you can, for the landscape is absolutely stunning along the way. Volubilis is an UNESCO World Heritage site and the former capital of the Roman province. Currently it is the most extensive and impressive Roman ruins in Morocco. Apart from just its significant history, photography lovers should not miss taking creative pictures for those ancient walls and pillars.
About 30 kilometers from Volubilis, we’ll visit Meknes, the city where Jews settled before the advent of Islam. Discover the old mellah, known for its historic Jewish street names, as well as the new mellah where up to eleven synagogues exist. Right next to the old mellah lies the old Jewish cemetery where several saints’ tombs are found, including Haim Messas, David Boussidan, and Raphael Berdugo. Meknes also offers numerous of historical sites to visit and discover during the day, among which are the Royal Stables and Agdal Reservoir, the Dar Jamaï Museum, Bou Inania Medersa (not to be confused with the medersa of the same name located in Fes), Bab El-Khemis and the 17th century kasbah.
Finally, reach Fes in the evening, where your private Moroccan tour comes to an end.
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We truly enjoyed this Morocco tour with Mint Tea Tours and with Lotfi as our driver.
Driving in Morocco is not an easy task, but luckily for us, Lotfi was a good Moroccan driver. Thank you for always driving us to safety with a smile. We won’t forget Lotfi – he was friendly with a smile on his face, trying his best to be helpful and make his customers happy.
Thank you for showing us the true Moroccan spirit!
Martim, Carlota & Fatima, Portugal